Basics of Parliamentary Procedure
Rules of Order are intended to facilitate working together and accomplishing purpose – not inhibit it.
- The spirit of fairness and good faith is paramount
- Only one matter is addressed at a time.
- Only one person can speak at a time.
- No one can speak for a second time until all who wish have spoken for the first time.
- All members have the right to understand any question presented during a meeting, and to understand the effect of their decision.
- Everybody’s vote counts.
- The majority vote decides the issue.
- The rights of the minority are protected at all times.
Parliamentary Procedure Vocabulary
Motion is a formal proposal made in a deliberative assembly.
Main Motion, the basis of all parliamentary procedure, provides
method of bringing business before the assembly for consideration and action,
can be considered only if no other business is pending.
Privileged Motions are such that, while having no relation to the
pending motion, are of such urgency or importance that they are entitled to
immediate consideration: relate to members, and to the organization, rather
than to particular items of business.
Subsidiary Motions are those that may be applied to another motion
for the purpose of modifying it, delaying action on it, or disposing of it.
Incidental Motions are related to the parliamentary situation in
such a way that it must be decided before business can proceed.
Forms of Voting
A voice vote is most commonly used.
A rising vote is the normal method of voting on motions requiring a
two-thirds vote for adoption. It is also used to verify a voice vote or
showing of hands.
Show of Hands is an alternative to a voice vote and is usually used
in small groups.
General Consent is a vote of silent agreement without a single
A Ballot or Roll Call vote can be ordered by a majority.
Rulings of the chair can be appealed.
Obtaining and Handling a Main Motion
When no one else has the floor, a member typically rises if it is a large group and addresses the chair: “Mr. Chairman/Madam President.” The member pauses (before stating his or her motion) to be recognized by the chair.
How a Motion is Brought Before an Assembly
Once recognized by the chair, a member makes the motion: “I move that
or to…” and sits down.
Another member of the group may choose to second the motion. “I
second the motion” or “I second it.” The chair will then state
the motion: “It is moved and seconded that …”
(Before a motion has been stated by the chair, it can be withdrawn or
modified by the maker. After being stated by the chair, it can be withdrawn
or modified only by general consent or a majority vote of the body.)
Consideration of the Motion
Once a motion has been properly presented, members of the group can debate
the motion. Before speaking in debate, the member must be recongized
by the chair and all remarks must be addressed to the chair. The maker of the
motion has the first right to the floor if it is properly claimed.
Debate must be confined to the merits of the motion and can only be closed
by order of the group (two-thirds vote) or by the chair if no one seeks the
floor for further debate.
Once debate is closed, the chair asks: “Is the group ready for the
question?” If no one claims the floor, the chair will proceed to take a
vote by stating the motion … and asking who are in favor by saying
“Aye.” Those opposed, say “No.” The chair then will
announce the result of the vote … “motion adopted or motion
Become familiar with an organization’s bylaws and constitution as the
bylaws state which parliamentary authority rules the organization. Knowing
parliamentary procedure and the rules that apply to the organization will
make you an effective leader or member of the body. Always remember that
parliamentary procedure is not intended to stifle problem solving or creative
- Privileged Motions
are such that, while having no relation to the pending question, are of
such urgency, or important that they are entitled to immediate
consideration; relate to members, and to the organization, rather than
to particular items of business.
- Subsidiary Motions
are those that may be applied to another motion for the purpose of
modifying it, delaying action on it, or disposing of it.
- Main Motion is
the basis of all parliamentary procedure — provides method of bringing
business before the assembly for consideration and action. Can only be
introduced if no other business is pending.
- Incidental Motions
are those (1) which arise out of a pending situation;
(2) which arise out of a question that has just been pending; or
(3) that relate to the business of the assembly. Incidental motions
usually apply to the method of transacting business rather than to the
business itself. They have no rank among themselves because they are in
order whenever they are incidental to the business of the assembly.
Listed below are some of them which are most commonly used.
- Motions that bring
a question again before the assembly (restorative) are, as their
name implied, motions which bring a question again before the assembly
for its consideration
The order of precedence from the highest
ranking to the lowest ranking is as follows:
3. Question of privilege
4. Lay on the table
5. Previous question (end debate)
6. Limit or extend debate
7. Postpone to a certain time (or
8. Commit or refer (to committee)
10. Postpone indefinitely